New Tree Farm at UA

The University of Alabama’s Campus Development and Facilities and Grounds Departments will be celebrating Arbor Day a bit differently during the Spring of 2021. In past years, they have commemorated the day with projects such as planting new trees across the main campus or dedicating existing trees.

This year the two departments have teamed up and will be kicking off a new campus project that they hope will serve the community both sustainably and educationally for years to come.

“I am excited about building a tree farm on University property.   Actually, cultivating the seedlings and cuttings within our own greenhouse will be cost effective for our institution, as well as help build camaraderie among different department employees who are making our tree farm a reality,” said Colonel Duane Lamb, the Associate Vice President of the Facilities and Grounds Department at the UA.

The University’s Campus Landscape Architect, Bonner Lee, expressed his excitement and knowledge when talking about the new Campus Tree Farm Project. “This is a good opportunity to help different departments come together and enjoy working together towards the betterment of the University.”

The Project Team has already launched the beginning steps of the project with creating a Campus Tree Farm which will be used to propagate many different native plants including but not limited to Camelias, Oaks, and Magnolias. The team hopes this new agriculture project will encourage more members of UA’s community to get involved with this new service opportunity.

“The University is proud to be able to actively practice sustainability by propagating and planting our own trees for future generations to use for relaxing, studying, and enjoy for decades to come,” said Donna McCray, Senior Director of Facilities and Grounds Operations.

Col Lamb, mentioned that he would not label himself as a tree-hugger, but more of a lover of trees which would include their beauty, and more importantly, their usefulness to our planet. “Throughout history, trees have often been considered sacred and honorable; I feel that way about trees, but especially about the trees on our campus.”

The idea for this project was developed in the late summer of 2020 when magnolia seeds were noticed falling from one of the grand specimen trees on the Bryce Campus. The seeds were then collected from other prominent large magnolias from locations across campus such as the President’s Mansion, Bryce Lawn, Gorgas House, and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity House. This project for propagation of Historical and Heirloom trees coincides with the teams strive for the campus to grow more self-sustainable and to play a key role in the Green Initiative.

Col Lamb goes on to give more insight about the project and says that, “to begin with, our tree farm will produce trees that are prominent on our campus, such as Live Oaks, Magnolias, and Ginkgoes that will give us a surplus of replacement trees for our future generations.”

“The trees from this project will be used to populate and beautify the campus forest and replacement of dead and dying materials. Students and alumni will be able to enjoy the benefits of these trees for many years to come,” declared Lee.

McCray stated that, “Each year the Facilities and Grounds Department reaches out to various student organizations and solicits help with an annual campus tree project that gives our student population an opportunity to contribute to the health of the overall tree canopy.”

“This project is a ‘good news’ story for the University as trees do so much for all of us. Not only do they produce oxygen, fight soil erosion, and help clean the soil, but they also provide beauty, shade and lower temperatures, while also helping with storm water control and often act as windbreakers,” added Col Lamb.

The University of Alabama has made great efforts with working to become more sustainable across campus.  Along with Facilities & Grounds, and Construction Administration, other departments within UA, such as Bama Dining, Energy Management, Recycling, and Campus Mail have all been a part of the campus-wide sustainability movement. The mission statement of the Office of Sustainability is to “create a more sustainable tomorrow through research, teaching, and promoting green initiatives and services within the University.” This new Tree Farm Propagation Project will provide an environment that encourages students, faculty, and staff to get involved with hands on opportunities to help guide the University towards a more sustainable campus community.

When working to build and grow the University’s landscape and tree population, the Senior Associate Vice President for Campus Development, Tim Leopard, has always been inspired by this well-known quote from Nelson Henderson, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”